SINCE Cho-Cho-San is to have a reincarnation on the way to the literary Nirvana, my publishers, who, in this rebirth, represent the Great First Cause, beg me for a "prelude." I had hoped to have the happiness of never writing a preface (for which the "prelude" is the publisher's cunning disguise), but one disobeys one's publishers at a certain distinct peril.
Being thus constrained, I had sent them a prelude, indeed. It was, and still is, a poem of the most obscure and exalted nature, concealed in prose dithyrambics. But they have detected and scorned it, and it is now returned with the reproach that eight pages are thus left by my default to be filled or something will happen to the book and to the public—and to me.
"Now be sensible," they say, or words to that flattering effect, "and tell the plain people plainly how the story was born; how it went out into world and touched the great universal heart, as ready to be touched as some rare instrument and as difficult; how it became a play—grand opera (the very first American story any European composer has set to music, according to those who are wise in such matters—though I don't believe it); what the people have said about it,—et cetera."
Well, here it is! Since they will not have the insidious poem, they shall tell it themselves—and have both the blame and the praise. They printed it. The people read it, and said and wrote things about it—some good, some bad. But, happily, they who liked Cho-Cho-San were more than they who did not; and so she laughed and wept her way into some pretty hard hearts, and lived—not entirely in vain.
And then she went upon the stage and made Miss Bates and herself so famous that we had to write a bigger play for them. And they beckoned for her across the sea, where, in London, Signore Puccini saw her, and when she comes back she will be a song! Sad, sad indeed, but yet a song!
What the people have said to me about her has been almost entirely by way of question. And the most frequent of these has been whether I, too, was n't sorry for Cho. To this I answer, with confusion, Yes. When she wept I wanted to—if I did n't; and when she smiled I think I did; but when she lauged I know I did.
For you will remember that at first she laughed oftener than she wept, and at last she wept oftener than she laughed—so one could n't help it.
And where has she gone? I do not know. I lost sight of her, as you did, that dark night she fled with Trouble and Suzuki from the little, empty, happy house on Higashi Hill, where she was to have had a honeymoon of nine hundred and ninety-nine years!
And is she a fancy, or does she live? Both.
And where is Pinkerton? At least not in the United States navy—if the savage letters I receive from his fellows are true.
Concerning the genesis of the story I know nothing. I think no one ever does. What process of the mind produces such things? What tumult of the emotions sets them going? I do not know. Perhaps it is the sum of one's fancies of life—not altogether sad, not altogether gay, a thing to be borne, often for others whom its leaving would mar. Perhaps the sleepless gods who keep the doors of life did not close them quite upon some other incarnation? For gods who never sleep may sometimes nod.
Finally, what matter? Here in this book is Cho-Cho-San, born again with all her little sins anew upon her head. And some of these the scribbler who here writes knows as well as they who, long since void of sentiment, sit in their chairs where words are made, and con them, and set them forth, forgetting that there may be something better had for good will and good searching. But there are sins one loves. So I love those of Cho. And I would have this Cho-Cho-San no more perfect than the world has cared to have her.
And this is she. Here is no "revised" edition. It has all the human, all the literary faults it had at first—and, may I hope, still its little charm?
So, Messueurs, Mesdames, I beg here, in your presence, that all the Gods of Luck will smile on this reincarnation!
Gomen nasai. Oitoma itashimasho.
J. L. L.
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